How Did They Do It: Temple Run’s Endless Dash
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How Did They Do It: Temple Run’s Endless Dash

Temple Run Marketing

“Temple Run illustrates the best marketing strategy for the App Store: Make an awesome game that everyone wants to tell their friends about.”- Ian Marsh

Would you even believe if I said, that an enormously successful game like Temple Run had a mere total of three individuals working behind the stage AKA the ever-so-popular game! Indeed yes, as the development team comprised of only the husband and wife along with an artist who fought all odds for months to create a distinctive running game, now profoundly known as, Temple Run. Well, Temple Run, just like many other successful games, is not an overnight success story. Rather it was a journey on a rough road to a Runway Success Story.

With its initial launch on App Store that grabbed around 40 million downloads, Imangi had successfully launched its application on Google Play soon after that. Since then, there was no looking back. Temple Run fearlessly dominated the App Store sales charts and the game began to generate more revenue than games created by companies with hundreds of employees. Before I walk you through it’s precisely delegated marketing strategies, let’s quickly glance at the journey of the couple duo with Imangi before launching Temple Run and its sequel that have been downloaded over 1 billion times.

  •  It was a word game named Imangi with which they had started off.
  • At the same time, they also filed to register a company with the same name.
  • This word game made around $5,000 in its first month on the market.
  • The good fortune raised the couple’s confidence to greater heights as it was just a take off for them.
  • This time it was another word game, and a tad bigger-budget racing game for kids called Little Red Sled.
  • All prepared to make it bigger, they created Harbor Master.
  • It became a hit, taking in well over $100,000
  • Next came Max Adventure, a shooter game, though unsuccessful, a stepping stone to the success that was to follow.
  • After multitudes of trails, errors, and game-changing lessons, Imangi was successful in decoding an ideal strategy with the ever-successful Temple Run followed by Temple Run 2.
  • The game was launched initially for iOS but due to high demand, the game was quickly ported to Android users, Windows Phone users and Tizen systems too.
  • Imangi took the app world by storm by re-defining casual gaming yet another time by teaming with Disney to promote the film Brave via their game titled “Temple Run Brave.”
  • Temple Run came back once again in a short span of time with a dazzling hit experience via a new title, “Temple Run Oz,” based on the film Oz the Great and Powerful.

“You can play it a million times, and you’re going for a high score,” says Shepherd, describing the sorts of games that Imangi resolved to make. “That kind of gameplay with the intuitive controls fits really well with people’s lifestyles and how they play games on a mobile device.”

An Amazing and Frenzied Run for Imangi Studios

Imangi Studios’ founder Natalia and Keith started this business as a small, self-funded set up with just three people to crack the whole idea, way back in 2008, and today the series is over a zillion downloads. They have created a juggernaut of 3D gaming apps. With a lot of marketing and strategizing which includes their worldwide licensing and merchandise program, Temple Run series today stands as a big all time hit among all age groups.

Below, I have churned out some of the niche marketing strategies that did wonders for this winner of Kid’s Choice award for Favourite App. All of these intuitive and successful marketing strategies are a collective result of Imangi Studio’s past trails and lessons, and of course, Imangi’s utmost responsive actions pertaining to lucrative situations.

Making critical Shift – From Pay-to-Play to Freemium

Temple Run had initially commenced as a pay-to-play game at 99 cents a download on iOS. Certainly, because Freemium was something that was never explored by the developers before. However, the game-changing realization happened just after few weeks of releasing the game on the app store. What is extremely critical here is, the couple duo took a right decision just at the right time to switch their premium monetization model to freemium model, which eventually opened doors for them to significantly boost their user base and potentially increase revenue. If not, the story might have been the other way round.

Let’s see what Eric Johnson of Temple Run has to say:

“Most people don’t know that [Temple Run started as a premium game.] They think of it as a free game, but that’s how we launched it, because we had never done freemium before. If you’ve spent five months of your life working on something, it’s kind of a scary proposition to put it out there for free. [After we made it free], it snowballed into this viral hit and the in-app purchases way exceeded what we would have made from the paid game.”

The GamePlay Theory- An Easy Play Giving Out a High Score

Imangi’s first tad bigger budget racing game for kids was Little Red Sled. However, soon after a delayed release and not-so-impressive performance, Shepherd and Luckyanova decided to change their strategy. Now, they simply aimed to make quick, simple projects.

Also, soon after the success of Harbor Master, Imangi team was finding it difficult to duplicate their previous successes. Followed was the biggest blow in the form of a muddled launch of Max Adventure, a shooter game that took Imangi a year to create.

However, after rounds of analysis, they worked hard to re-arrange and sort out Max Adventure’s controls and use a swipe method instead, and a couple of more critical changes and game-play optimization. These game-changing optimizations led to the formation of a mythology wherein an explorer who’s stolen something from this temple, and he’s in this weird limbo place where he has to run endlessly.

This, fortunately, led to the creation of the most intuitive game with combining reflexes, a fear of deadly monkeys, and a smooth game mechanic that made the most addictive endless running game, Temple Run.

“Its appeal lies in the fact that it’s a pretty simple game to grasp but a difficult one to master,” says Philip Michaels, editor of technology-focused website Macworld.com.

Ingenious Social Media Sharing

As you know, within the course of game, users can build up points with speedy “runs” through the temple and by collecting gold coins. Similar to arcade games, there is a focus on getting a brag-worthy score, which can easily be shared via an in-game Twitter and Facebook icon.

This led to multitudes of players posting screenshots of their “high scores” on Facebook. Indeed, it is a lucrative way to invite more friends to beat the score, and it worked no differently for Temple Run.

Temple Run Team PR

Though it makes an ordinary marketing strategy which has been implemented by scores of apps across the app store, what’s even more lucrative is, Temple Run managed to pull off this equally well along while delegating an array of other critical marketing tactics.

“It’s not just the same old thing,” Michaels says. “They really managed to tick off a lot of the boxes that make for a successful casual game.”

Wait! It also won praise on social media from big-name celebrities including singers Justin Bieber and Mary J. Blige and Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James. And, what Imangi team did next made a spellbound marketing tactic.

Swift Reactions to User’s Feedback- Introducing Real-life Star Characters

The tiny team, as I call it, successfully nailed it by being utmost responsive to user’s feedback.

Temple Run Bruce Lee

For instance, when the company saw on social media that real-life athletes were playing Temple Run, they moved fast to create the character of Zack Wonder, a treasure hunter and star football player. Now that’s quite a lot to say in response.

You will be amazed to know what uplifts them to deploy such swift critical actions. Read on!

“There is a strength to being a small business,” says Luckyanova, “We’re very nimble.”

Without layers of management, we can quickly change gears on a project or react swiftly to feedback from game users, she says.

Powerful PR Activities

A competent app marketing strategy is certainly incomplete without running effective PR activities. With a strong notion to focus only on things they are best at, Team Imangi decided to partner with PR firm TriplePoint to witness that its full-fledged PR marketing activities are up and running without having to worry about its ins and outs.

These inevitable marketing efforts resulted in running campaigns for Android release that included an official announcement and launch reach. They outreached to mainstream and business press for interviews with the Imangi team to discuss the game’s developments and success. A groundbreaking social media strategy was put into action to leverage the game’s celebrity fan base across social media.

Temple Run 2

No matter how intuitive the current game-play is, loyal users demand an improved game-play that outperforms the one that they approved and applauded previously. If not heard, they tend to switch abruptly in a look out for better available options. Hence, a major upgrade is all that’s needed to keep going.

Temple Run, after having played over and over again, needed a critical upgrade to maintain its position and retain its hard-earned users. Though, at the same time, the app store had witnessed the release of number of potential games that were catchy enough to divert the users to opt for a change- (name of competitor apps) were lined up! Therefore, the coming of Temple Run 2 was inevitable and it was anticipated to be greater and even better to cover up the tiniest possibilities of losing its topmost stance in the app stores. Quite aware of the scenario, Imangi was well in time to introduce Temple Run 2 to its enormous squad of fans across the globe.

Temple Run 2

The all new Temple Run 2, that quickly dominated app store charts in mere 24 hours, featured improved graphics, new environments and more moves. So besides running, sliding and jumping, there was swinging on a rope and riding in a mine cart too. Other than that, the players simply couldn’t get enough of special Powers, Multipliers, pumping up their Abilities, boost Powers, and cashing those Coins. What more could the world ask for!

An addiction to never-ending runs, jumps, turns and slides was created with the latest update of Temple Run 2 in 2016.

The Metrics of Success

If you are creating an app, you add a customer today, but if you are creating a stupendous experience through your app, you create a customer for the lifetime. Imangi’s marketing strategy of inviting, encouraging and celebrating user participation marks as one of the key success factors of Temple Run. Through this article, you can capture the very best thinking, experiences, strategies and real-time facts generated by Imangi Studios.

Temple Run is into incredibly fun running genre. Totally endless.

P.S. Watch out for a round 3 of Temple Run anytime soon…..

In case if you have got artful concepts occupying abundant space in your head but failing to find a way forth, worry not! OpenXcell will guide you through to mutate your ingenious ideas into prosperous Games.

This article was originally published on June 2015 but has been updated with the latest data.

App Store Optimization

Meenakshi Krishnan

Meenakshi Krishnan

Meenakshi Krishnan is a Content Consultant at OpenXcell, a pioneering mobile app development company in India and USA. Technology inspires her and this has helped her author content on a variety of topics ranging from telecom, apps, healthcare communications and so on. She is currently working on global mobile app technologies reporting on diverse subjects. Prior to this, she was working for a technology marketing company based in Norwalk as a content contributor. You can reach Meenakshi at LinkedIn and Twitter

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